Double Dragon opened in 2011 amidst Portland’s banh mi craze, with chef-owner Rob Walls slinging hefty, non-traditional subs stuffed with chorizo and sambal- tomato-spiced meatballs. Now they’ve added an adventurous new bar program and expanded their kitchen, serving a full menu of Asian-inspired comfort food.
When he first started out, Walls put some of his favorite brews on tap, claiming the lack of booze was a drawback at traditional banh mi joints. Now he’s taken it a step further with a fully stocked bar. Drinks are bold, unexpected and delicious. The “Glass Case of Emotion” mixes scotch, watermelon and kombu (edible seaweed) tincture into a glass tasting like a Jolly Rancher in a three-piece suit, while the “Burnt Reynolds” (bourbon, lapsing tea-infused honey, orange bitters) brings an intriguingly peaty edge to the table.
If Portland’s playful Asian-inspired restaurants like Smallwares or Boke Bowl are proudly “inauthentic,” Double Dragon’s new dinner menu could be called “inauthentic Asian stoner food”—heavy on the deep fryer and splicing in miso and five-spice with wild abandon. The results are hit or miss.
Points for the burger, which explodes with ginger, soy, and landmines of Szechuan peppercorns under a layering of five-spice bacon and thick sambal aioli. This one’s a keeper. But the Miso Disco Fries (a dorm room rendition of poutine) collapse onto themselves in a messy vortex of garlic, queso fresco, and salty gravy—cumbersome for even high-functioning stoners. Similarly, the fried chicken is a brackish wreck oozing grease from its pores while “Kimchi’d” collards—a bastardized fusion of southern comfort and Korean spice—yields cold, fizzy greens with congealed bits of pork belly.
I’ll happily chow down on a glossy banh mi overflowing with ginger-and-orange roasted duck, especially with Double Dragon’s new whimsical cocktail offerings. But to hang with Southeast Division’s dinner players, the kitchen needs to pare back the grease-quotient and rethink the brash fusions.
1235 SE Division Street